Inchagoill Island

Of all the 365 islands on Lough Corrib Inchagoill is the most famous and most visited. The name Inchagoill comes from 3 Irish words "Inis An Ghaill" meaning the Island of the stranger. Situated approximately half way between Cong Co. Mayo and Oughterard Co. Galway (4.5 miles from each) this special island is home to a number of ancient monastic ruins, some dating back to the 5th Century. In order of size Inchagoill measuring 104 acres is the forth largest island in size. To-day Inchagoill is owned by the state and its national monuments are protected by "Duchas" in the Department of the Environment.

Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness purchased this Island as part of the Ashford Castle estate in 1852. At that time there were four families living on the Island and these families were tenants on this estate. Some family names included O' Sullivan's Kineavy's and Conway's. In older times there were as many as six families living on the Island with other names including Murphy's, Lydons, and Butlers. These families farmed 80 acres of land in the centre of the Island with 50 acres of high trees as shelter all around. By about 1935 there was only one inhabitant on the Island, a man called Thomas Nevin.

Thomas (Tommie) Nevin

Thomas Nevin was employed by the Guinness family as a caretaker on the Island about 1931. In his early years Tommie fought in World War 1 in Guillipi and contracted malaria during his time there. About every 2 weeks Tommie would row a small fishing boat to Cong or Oughterard and sometimes return to the Island in the dark using the lights of Ashford Castle as his compass. Apart from meeting visiting fishermen who used lunch on the Island, Tommie led quiet a lonesome life with only his dog as company. The Guinness family furnished Tommie with a dry battery radio, a very rare commodity at the time which gave Tommie great company during his years on the Island. In 1938 County Galway and County Kerry were to play in the All Ireland football final, and as this was only one of the few radios in the area, at least 100 people gathered in his house on the Island to listen to this National Event. Tommie Nevin was to live on the Island alone up until 1948 in which year he moved in to live in the village of Cong where he died in 1964.

The Church of the Saints (Teampall Na Naoimh)

When one walks up the little pathway from the Pier on the Island the first building that comes into view is "Teampall Na Naoimh" translated as the "Church of the Saints". It is believed that this church was built by the Agustian Monks of Cong circa 1180 A.D. At that time between monks and lay scholars there were about 3,000 people in the monestary of Cong. For this reason the monks needed a place of peace and quiet to pray and meditate and so the Church of the Saints was built.

The Church is built of sandstone and their decorative doorways reflect at least 3 different European cultures. The archway of the doorway is Romanesque in style and it depects the 10 heads of the ten saints of Lough Corrib. On the outer and inner tiers of the doorway, at shoulder height are heads with platted beards, believed to be of Greek influence while the centre tiers display carving of French design. Just inside the doorway on the right hand side one sees a Byzantane cross carved out on the wall. This cross was to be the inspiration for the Celtic cross that we know so well to-day. This proves to us that many monks and scholars came from abroad to study in our monasteries here. The alter of the Church is situated at the Eastern End of the building and there is an interesting reason for this. Many centuries before in the 5th Century, Ireland was a pagan country. The early Christians that were trying to convert these pagans found that they worshiped the rising sun.

By placing their alters to the East the pagans who were still facing the rising sun became easier to convert to Christianity.

From time to time baptisms are carried out in this Church to-day. In 1862 the doorway of this Church was in very bad condition and Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness commissioned its repair.

Muirgeas O Nioc

Muirgeas O' Nioc was an archbishop of Tuam in the 12th Century. There is no information available connecting this man to Inchagoill Island except that he was buried here in 1128. A big square stone structure to the North of Teampall Na Naoimh Markes his burial place to-day.

St. Patrick's Church and the Stone of Lugnad

The stone of Lugnad and St.Patrick's church are situated quiet close to each other, about 100 meters west of Teampall Na Naoimh. More that any other monument on the Island the stone of Lugnad has captured the attention of the most renowned archaeologists. The 5th century inscription on the stone which is still legible to-day reads "Lia Lugnaedon Macc Lmenueh".

This is written in old Gaelic and translates as follows - "The standing stone of Lugnad Son of Limanin"

It is believed that St Patrick and his nephew (who was also his navigator) came to Cong in the middle of the 5th Century to spread the Christian faith. The Pagan druids who were very powerful people at the time had St. Patrick and his nephew banished to Inchagoill Island. This is how the Island got its name - Inis an Ghaill (the Island of the Stranger) While building their church Lugnad died and was buried on the Island. It is interesting to note that the stone has the shape of a boats rudder tying in with the theory that Lugnad was St. Patrick's navigator. We believe that Limanin was St. Patrick's sister.

Many archologists claim that this inscription is the oldest Christian inscription in Europe apart from one found in the Catacombs of Rome.


Dry Canal

In 1848 an attempt was made to join the two lakes Oof Lough Corrib and Lough Mask by way of a canal, whose main aim was to allow steamer traffic from Galway port through to Lough Mask and onto Lough Carra. Because of the porous nature of the limestone this was to become an engineering disaster, because the bed of the Canal proved too porous and was unable to retain water. This artificial waterway elaborately finished with sluicegates, substancial locks of cut stone and arched bridges has since been now as the dry canal.


Lough Mask

Lough Mask is a large limestone lough of 22,000 acres in area and, along with Lough Corrib, is one of the best known brown trout fisheries in Ireland. The lough produces good catches to wetfly from about mid-April. Dapping the mayfly, daddylonglegs or grasshopper can bring about excellent results during the various months of the season. The lough continues to produce more trout with every season, last season been one of the better ones even though weather conditions were very unsuitable from July onwards.

Lough Mask is famous for its large ferox trout and every season anglers take a number of these great trout, mostly all over 10 lb and nearly always to trolled baits. The record for the lough is 18 lb, but others over 20 lb have been found including one of 22 lb some 10-years ago and is on display in the WRFB office at Cushlough, Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo.


Cong Abbey

Founded in 623AD by St. Feichin as a monestary this site was then chosen by Turlough Mor O Connor, High King of Connacht and of Ireland, as the Royal Augustinian Abbey of Cong which was built in 1120AD for the Canons Regular of the Order of St. Augustine.

The Royal Abbey of Cong is one of the finest examples of early architecture in Ireland. Examples of the wonderful craftsmanship is still very much in evidence today with the Abbey's Gothic windows, Romanesque doors and windows, clustered pillars, arches, standing columes and floral capitals.

Three thousand cenobites resided within its walls and cloisters. The Abbotts themselves were excellant scholars in History, Poetry, Music, Sculpture and the illumination of books. they were also skilled craftsmen in metal work, engraving, inlaying and designing in bronze, gold, enamel, woodcarving and harp making. The Royal Abbey is one of Cong's most beautifully stricking treasures.

The Augustinian Abbey at Cong was founded in the early 12th century by Turlough O’Connor (High King of Ireland), was built on the site of a 6th century church associated with St. Feichín. It features some very fine examples of stone carvings, as well as a cloister.The Abbey , which was endowed and supported by royal families of this era, is considered to be one of the finest examples of early architecture in Ireland, and it was here that Rory O’ Connor , last high King of Ireland died and was buried in 1198 though is remains were later moved to Clonmacnoise.

The Abbey was suppressed in the reign of Henry VIII of England in 1542. It then fell into ruins but was later restored in 1850’s by the direction of Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness , former owner of Ashford Castle.

The Abbey served many purposes including a hiding place for the O’Connor family , a hospital for the sick, shelter for the poor and starving as well as being a place of learning for thousands of scholars.


Lough Corrib

The West of Ireland is dotted with many fresh water lakes and has often been described as Ireland's Lake District.The largest and most navigable of these lakes is Lough Corrib, and covering an area of 68 sq miles/175 sq kilometres (44,000 acres), it is also the largest lake in the Republic of Ireland.

From the Maam valley in Connemara to Galway city in the South it has a length of 40 miles /64 kilometers while the widest part of the lake reaches from Cong Co. Mayo to Oughterard Co. Galway, a distance of 9 miles 15 kilometres.

To the West of Lough Corrib you have Connemara a land of mountain and bog while to the East you have the more fertile plains of County Mayo. To the North an isthmus of land separates Lough Corrib from our second largest lake Lough Mask which is a spring fed lake measuring 40 sq miles/100 sq kilometres.

Lough Mask a more elevated lake sits 40 ft/12 meters higher in altitude than Lough Corrib. A series of sub teranean streams travelling south wards an eventually all of this water emerges from the ground in the village of Cong, at a place called "the rising of the waters". This water, now called the Cong river surrounds the Island village of Cong before eventually approaching Ashford Castle at which point it enters Lough Corrib. The name Cong actually comes from a Gaelic word "Cung" meaning narrow or slender and this describes the isthmus of land between the lakes on which the village lies.

Indeed in 1848 an attempt was made to join the two lakes by way of a canal whose main aim was to allow steamer traffic from Galway port through to Lough Mask and onto Lough Carra. Because of the porous nature of the limestone this was to become an engineering disaster because the bed of the Canal proved too porous and was unable to retain water. This artificial waterway elaborately finished with sluicegates, substancial locks of cut stone and arched bridges has since been now as the dry canal.

The deepest part of Lough Corrib is 152 ft/47 meters, but its average depth is approximately 40ft/12meters. To-day Lough Corrib is considered to be one of the best fishing lakes in Europe. It is home to a variety of fresh water fish including brown trout, pike, perch, and roach, and it also attracts salmon and eels from the Atlantic Ocean.

The lake enters the ocean at Galway city via the Corrib River. The Atlantic ocean is 27ft/8 meters lower than Lough Corrib in altitude and for this reason the lake is unaffected by tidal conditions. However the water level in the lake does vary by about 3 ft from winter to summer. Our salmon come from the coast of Nova Schoca while the eels come from the Saragoca sea.

Fishing methods on the lake and its rivers include spinning, trolling, dapping and dry fly fishing and the season runs from March to September.

It is said that there are365 islands on Lough Corrib, one Island for each day of the year. There are approximately 10 of these islands inhabited to-day:

Inishmacatreer 15 families
Inchaquin 11 families
Inisdoorus 3 families
and there are approximately seven other islands with one and two homes on those. The most famous and most visited of all the islands isInchaogoill Island.


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